Grant Williams leads Tennessee in NCAA Tournament
Tennessee begins its 2018 NCAA Tournament on Thursday against Wright State. CBS Sports' Reid Forgrave had a chance to talk with Volunteers star Grant Williams and those around him last month about how he and UT turned low preseason expectations into being a No. 3 seed in one of the nation's best surprise stories.
There are a lot of impressive basketball things about Grant Williams, the tough, hard-working sophomore power forward who has led No. 15 Tennessee – a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC but now has a real shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament – to become one of the biggest surprises of this upside-down college basketball season.
But we're not going to start with the basketball things.
Because when a 19-year-old potential NBA player can call himself a "Renaissance man" and not at all be exaggerating – and when his AAU coach used to call him a "Renaissance man," too – you don't start with the basketball things. You start with the other things.
Like with music. Music has been a central part of Williams' life since he was born. You can't be a member of his family without a heavy music influence; his father, Gil Williams, worked for years in the music industry, serving as a bodyguard for pop stars like Michael Jackson and Prince. His grandfather lived just down the street in Charlotte, and growing up, Grant and his four older brothers would spend hours at Pop Pop's house, listening to him play the piano. Pop Pop got his first piano in 1951.
He took some money from his job painting houses, walked into Parker Garner Music Store in Charlotte, and bought a piano on a payment plan. Now his house has a baby grand piano and a dozen keyboards. Pop Pop would play improvisational jazz every morning. Grant grew up listening to Pop Pop playing John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." That song is on Williams' pregame iPod mix. So are "I Smile" by gospel singer Kirk Franklin (one of his mother's favorites), "Can You Stand the Rain" by the R&B group New Edition (one of his father's favorites), "Call Casting" by the rap trio Migos (one of his brother's favorites) and "Wild for the Night" by the rapper A$AP Rocky (one of his other brother's favorites). His Tennessee teammate Brad Woodson has been trying to get him into country music. Williams can now sing along to the Jason Aldean song "Big Green Tractor."
"It's something I take pride in," Williams told CBSSports.com. "I like to be up to date and enjoy different things with different groups of people."=